Launched this spring by the International Mountain Biking Association, the Trail Accelerator grant program identifies communities most in need of mountain bike infrastructure.
Hixon, Tennessee, De Queen, Arkansas, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, may not sound like key mountain biking destinations, but that could change. That’s because the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) selected each city from piles of applications it received in the first round of its recently announced Trail Accelerator grant program.
The grants, launched this year, represent the largest trail fund in the IMBA’s 30-year history. And they provide matching dollars for services to help each awardee plan, promote, and build new trail projects.
“Communities all over the country have opportunities for great trails but, often, a trail project needs an initial boost to get started,” said Dave Wiens, IMBA executive director. “Together we can accelerate so many trail projects, bringing us closer to our vision of everyone across the country having access to great trails.”
The first-round recipients proposed literal groundbreaking proposals, ranging from 10-mile downhill courses to 3-mile lakeside trails. Each community will put forth between $12,000 and $18,000 to make the visions reality. And in return, the IMBA will match the amount of aid in the form of professional planning services.
Inaugural ‘Accelerator’ Winners: New Trails in Heartland
In evaluating applications, the IMBA gave priority to smaller communities with a need for resources and coordinated aid. The only stipulation is that a city must be part of “America’s Heartland” to be considered. According to IMBA communications director Eleanor Blick, that includes almost any landlocked state east of the Rockies. A complete list of eligible states and rules is available here.
The IMBA also said the three winners’ proposals each demonstrated the potential to transform nearby communities. One day, they will become mountain biking destinations. So, where are these up-and-coming trails? Here are the details the IMBA provided.
Mountain Creek Park / Hixon, Tenn.: $12,500 Grant
Mountain Creek Park will provide the first downhill trails in the Chattanooga region. This will offer new opportunities to local and regional riders. It will also become the first local recreation area to offer both mountain biking and climbing. The project is a collaboration among six recreation and conservation groups.
One of these is SORBA-Chattanooga, a local mountain bike organization. It aims to increase access to the outdoors for the Red Bank school system and surrounding low- and middle-income communities.
De Queen Lake Trails / De Queen, Ark.: $18,000 Grant
De Queen Lake has 32 miles of shoreline, more than 100 campsites, 8,700 acres of surrounding land, and the vision to become a mountain bike destination. The community will soon have its first 3-mile trail at the lake and plans for more.
The organizations involved, including the Army Corps of Engineers, see the trails as a way to address the region’s obesity challenge. They also see it as a venue to welcome De Queen’s minority population to mountain biking.
Grandma’s Gateway / La Crosse, Wisc.: $15,000 Grant
This project will turn an iconic regional landscape with no formal trail access into a community trail system. It will become ripe with opportunities to connect to several nearby public lands. Developing Grandad Bluff Park into a multiuse trail system will provide neighborhood access, alleviate pedestrian road traffic, and help clear out litter and invasive species. The closest school to new trailheads is a quarter-mile away.
These are the first Trail Accelerator grants, but not the last. The Walton Family Foundation, which underwrites the grant program, and the IMBA have promised the grants will seed at least 100 new trail projects in 2018. They will award up to $250,000 to winners this year alone.
The IMBA said the first three winners’ plans for the new trails will be completed this fall. We look forward to seeing what these prospective new mountain biking destinations have to offer! And anyone else in or near a potential grantee city should check out the Trail Accelerator page for the next grant openings and deadlines.